SK Flashback: Paying tribute to one of India's best all-rounders, Madan Lal, on his 66th birthday
Madan Lal Udhouram Sharma, commonly known as Madan Lal, celebrates his birthday on March 20th. Born in 1951 in Amritsar, Punjab, Lal went on to become one of the finest all-rounders to have ever played for India.
He was a medium pace bowler with a slight side-on bowling action and also a useful batsman down the order. He rescued India from tricky situations on multiple occasions with his gritty batting that earned him the nickname of ‘Maddat Lal’ by his fans. As he turns 66, we take a look at the highlights of his career.
Lal made his Test debut at the of 23 against England at Old Trafford on June 6, 1974. He served as the first change bowler and ended with figures of 56/2 in 31 overs in the first innings. He was wicketless in the next innings and could score only 9 runs with the bat in two innings and India lost the game by 113 runs. In the next Test at Lord’s, he failed to pick up any wicket and India lost that game too.
A month later on the same tour to England, he marked his ODI debut as well, this time at Headingley. There too, he couldn’t contribute with the bat, scoring just two runs. With the ball, he picked up one wicket, but India once again ended up on the losing side; Lal’s entry into the international cricket wasn’t a memorable one.
Cementing his place in the side
His first performance of note came against West Indies at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata in December 1974. India batted first and he contributed 48 runs to the total and then picked up four wickets for 22. India won the game by 85 runs and, more importantly, Lal strengthened his place in the squad.
From then on, he became a regular contributor for the side until India’s tour Down Under in 1977/78. India lost the first two games and despite Lal’s decent performances, he was dropped from the playing XI for the remainder of the series.
He was once again picked in the side to play against England where he established himself in the squad after two five-wicket hauls.
Memorable moment of his career
Perhaps the biggest moment of his career came in the 1983 World Cup in England. A young Indian team led by Kapil Dev had made it to the final of the tournament, much to the surprise of everyone. They were facing two-time world champions, West Indies, in the final and were bowled out for just 183 after batting first at Lord’s.
West Indies looked like they were cruising towards their third title in a row, with Vivian Richards blasting the Indian bowlers all over the park and motored along to 33 runs off 28 balls, smashing seven boundaries. He looked like running away with the game until Lal put the brakes on the Richards juggernaut.
Lal bowled a shortish delivery off which Richards played an uppish shot towards mid-wicket. Kapil Dev had to backtrack to get close to the ball and he pulled off a blinder that turned the game in India’s favour. That dismissal triggered a collapse in the West Indies’ batting order and India went on to become the champions for the first time. Lal had figures of 31/3 in 12 overs and played a key role in the triumph.
Retirement and coaching stints
Lal played his last Test in June 1986 at Headingley against England and was dropped from the Test side post that. But he played ODIs for nearly a year after that and retired from ODIs in 1987, playing his last game against Pakistan. In total, he featured in 39 Tests and 67 ODIs and amassed 4983 runs and accounted for 144 wickets across the two formats.
After hanging up his boots in the game, he was still associated with the game and donned the role of a coach. He coached the UAE team in the 1996 World Cup. Later, he went on to coach the Indian national team from September 1996 to September 1997.
He also became a member of the Indian selection committee in 2000 and 2001. He joined the rebel cricket league of ICL (Indian Cricket League) and served as the coach of Delhi Giants until it became defunct.
A look back at the numbers
If we look back at his career, his international stats suggest that he did not fully fulfil the promise that he showed early in his career. His first-class record was excellent, scoring 10,204 runs with an average of 42.87 and 22 hundreds. To go with that, he also had 625 wickets to his name as well.
Stats prove that he could have had a better international career. Despite that, he would always be remembered as a brilliant all-rounder and one who played an important role in India’s triumph in 1983 against West Indies in the final.
Lal had a stint in Indian politics as well when in March 2009, Indian National Congress picked his as the candidate for the Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency by-elections in Himachal Pradesh against Anurag Thakur, the former president of BCCI.